In my other life, I take portraits. I put my eye behind the camera and watch families arrange themselves. I ask them to look. To smile. And then I hit the shutter on my camera and that smile is captured forever, made into an image, one they want to remember.

It’s what they’ve asked me to do, and I’m happy doing it.

But those are not my favorite photos. My favorite time to hit that shutter is when that family is not looking at me, but looking at one another.

Those stolen moments are why I fell in love with photography in the first place, because I could somehow be responsible for allowing a person to tell their own story.

I’ve been thinking about our stories a lot lately. One reason for the obsession is the work I’m doing on another album, attempting to write songs that give voice to the characters I come across in my life, the ones who passed me in the street, the overheard conversations in the bar, the pieces I might put together from brief encounters on our way to other places.

Which leads me to the story of this town here, the one buzzing outside the window of this temporary office, a result of a building boom working to make more space to fit more people. The phone’s been ringing. They want to report.

What’s it like out there? Who can I talk to? Who’s suffering? What are we losing here? What’s there to gain?

And so we answer only to read our stories back, printed there in black-and-white or cut up and placed between shots of trailers and trucks on CNN, spliced together enough to make us wonder if that story is really ours anymore. Or was it theirs all along?

It’s a strange thing to watch what you know to be true being retold to the masses, constrained by time slots, word allotment or one writer’s point of view.

It’s an exercise in perspective, and as a journalist, I should understand it. But it’s a little unnerving, a little sensitive, when your entire community is the subject. Each dissected story, each report, makes me want to stand up and shout, “But there’s more! Isn’t there more time to tell it? Didn’t you see the good? The bad? Didn’t you ask what’s being done? There are more people to talk to!”

But of course I feel this way. The story of a town is the story of its people. And, as communities go, there isn’t one person here with the same set of reasons for getting up each morning. And so it makes the comprehensive, collective story pretty complicated to tell in 750 words, or five minutes, or in a half-hour news segment aired across the nation.

I’m not surprised, then, that I have the same sort of feelings this political season. Because out there on the ballots we will be asked to make some decisions that affect the state as a whole, picking people who will speak for us. Picking rules that will apply to all of us.

All. Of. Us.

And during these advertisements, during each dinner-party discussion that turns into a political argument, I can’t help but think about the stories of the people here, the stories I know, of course, but even more unnerving are the ones I don’t. I can work to understand how my vote will affect me, and my family, but how will it affect that single mother, that landowner, my neighbor’s grandmother in the nursing home? Our children?

Are we talking enough amongst ourselves so that at the end of the day we can feel comfortable with the consequences we’ve laid out, not only for ourselves, but for those in different circumstances who make up our community?

Or, like the smiles on the faces of the families in front of my lens, are we seeing only what we want to see? Showing only what we want to show?

And while I understand that we can’t always know the stories that make up those stolen glances in between, I can’t help but feel the need to hold that shutter down in an attempt to allow you, my neighbors, to tell it …

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